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March 30, 2016 News » Cover Story

Eating Well 

Dining Guide 2016

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Traveling Well
Utah Meals Worth A Detour
By TED SCHEFFLER
comments@cityweekly.net

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France's sacred culinary bible—the Michelin Guidehas been directing discerning patrons to restaurants in France and beyond for more than a century. Created by the Michelin tire company, the guide was originally conceived to lend weary French travelers a helping hand in choosing where to eat and where to sleep. Today, the Michelin Guide—published annually—lists thousands of restaurants, with those in the top tiers earning one, two or the much-sought-after three stars. The two- and three-star ratings indicate that those restaurants are "worth a detour" and "worth a special journey," respectively.

Michelin Guide inspectors follow rigorous rules in rating establishments. As for me, well, I'm a bit more laissez-faire in my choices. After all, I'll drive 100 miles out of my way for a first-rate hamburger or pizza. Here, then, are 10 off-the-beaten-path Utah eateries that I think are well worth at least a detour, and maybe even that special journey.

Who'd have imagined that you'd have to travel to Utah County to get your lips around the best Cajun-Creole cooking in in the state? At Boudreaux's Bistro (78 E. State Road 198, Salem, 801-704-7209, GetYourCajunOn.com) the food is cooked from scratch and delivered to your table piping hot. There's nothing fancy here: Styrofoam plates, plastic bowls and cutlery are the order of the day, and there's no alcohol. But, who cares? Because Boudreaux's serves up rich and hearty gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, shrimp Creole, crawfish and po' boys that any New Orleanian would covet. So, for an authentic taste of Louisiana, schedule a stop in Salem. Your taste buds will thank you—I gawr-on-tee.

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Whenever I'm in Moab, near the top of my things-to-do checklist is to pay a visit to Milt's Stop n' Eat (356 Mill Creek Drive, Moab, 435-259-7424, MiltsStopAndEat.com). It's not just one of my favorite Moab eateries, but one of my favorites on the planet. Moab's oldest restaurant—opened in 1954 by Milt Galbraith—is today said to look pretty much as it did when it was built. The vinyl-topped stools and Formica counter are all original. The chili con carne is killer, and the milk shakes ... oh, those milkshakes! The shakes and malts are made with fresh cow's milk from McClish Family Dairy in Moab's Spanish Valley. They're also made with fresh fruit, so expect chunks of real banana, strawberries and such to clog up your straw. These are old-fashioned shakes, meant to be eaten with a spoon.

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Café Galleria (101 W. Main, Midway, 435-657-2002, CafeGalleriaPizza.com) is situated in and around a 110-year-old house; there's abundant seating indoors and lots more outside. Patio tables and furniture surround the house, and in warm weather, patrons can eat, literally, on the lawn. It feels like being in Boulder, Colo., or Portland, Ore. But enough about ambiance, because you'll come to Midway for the pizza. These are traditional, thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pies, baked in a wood-fired oven (they use cherry wood) at around 600 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit. The crust is terrific, but what really makes these pizzas stand out is the cheese, which is a secret house blend of homemade mozzarella and Parmesan. In the mornings, Café Galleria also serves excellent baked bagels.

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There are many reasons to visit Twin Rocks Cafe (913 Navajo Twins Drive, Bluff, 435-672-2341, TwinRocksCafe.com) when you're in San Juan County, but none more compelling than its Navajo tacos. Twin Rocks makes its fry bread from scratch, and tops it with homemade chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives and shredded cheddar, with sour cream and salsa alongside. This is also the home of the Navajo pizza, which uses that deliciously decadent fry bread as the crust. Work off some of the fry-bread calories while browsing the popular Twin Rocks gift shop.

Located in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Red Canyon Lodge (2450 W. Red Canyon Lodge, Dutch John, 435-889-3759, RedCanyonLodge.com) is truly one of Utah's hidden treasures—a destination that is as appealing in winter as in summer. Red Canyon Lodge's restaurant features mostly sandwiches and burgers for lunch, and it's hard to top the Gorge Grilled Cheese. At dinner, the signature hand-cut elk sirloin with rosemary-garlic-red wine demi-glaze is sensational, as is the simpler Rainbow trout fillet, lightly fried in herb-infused olive oil with fresh sage and rosemary. Kids and adults alike love Red Canyon's fettuccine Alfredo and the chef's gourmet mac 'n' cheese with smoked Italian sausage, cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan.

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If I had to name a single Utah restaurant that was my favorite, it would have to be Hell's Backbone Grill (20 N. Highway 12, Boulder, 435-335-7464, HellsBackboneGrill.com). It's not the fanciest or edgiest. It's neither hoity-toity nor precious. And that's why I love it so. It is Utah's answer to the beloved Chez Panisse: a restaurant where the food is truly local, mostly organic, sustainable and that which seems to envelop visitors in an aura of good karma. That's thanks to the terrific team of co-owners—Jen Castle and Blake Spalding—and their exceptional Hell's Backbone family. The food, from posole to "blue ribbon" buttermilk biscuits, is top-notch. The wine selection is terrific, and the magnetism of this culinary gem will bring you back, again and again.

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The menu at North Fork Table & Tavern (3900 N. Wolf Creek Drive, Eden, 801-648-7173, NorthForkTableAndTavern.com) is nothing if not eclectic. Wood-fired oven pizzas share the menu with pan-seared Shetland salmon, wild-caught Pacific black cod, roasted organic chicken, Cobb salad, grilled New York strip steak and a vermicelli bowl with short rib, pickled daikon, cilantro, Marcona almonds and nuoc cham. I didn't expect to find that in the tiny village of Eden. But Chef Jeff Sanich is secretly cooking up a storm here, adjacent to Powder Mountain, and he knocks it out of the park during breakfast, lunch, après ski and dinner. So, venture north, my friends.

The next time you're heading to Bear Lake or find yourself in Logan, make time to enjoy a pizza at Jack's Wood Fired Oven (265 N. Main, 435-754-7523). The Margherita pizza at Jack's is absolute perfection. But, there are other tremendous wood-fired pizzas that demand attention, too, like The Sunnyside, which is a breakfast lover's pizza dream: potatoes, cream sauce, prosciutto, bacon, smoked cheddar and—the best part—two sunny-side-up eggs, finished with maple syrup. Or, try the Cozumel pizza with white sauce, shrimp, avocado, Peppadew peppers and Caribbean spices. Friendly service and cocktails, beer and wine all add to Jack's appeal.

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Conestoga Ranch, located near Bear Lake, is seasonal; its unique Campfire Grill Restaurant (427 N. Paradise Parkway, Garden City, 844-464-5267, ConestogaRanch.com) is open from mid-May until early October. The Ranch is a "glamping" destination, where guests can bunk in luxurious cottages or covered wagons. Naturally, the food is pretty glam, too. Chef Gustavo Suclla Schiaffino's menu includes a one-pound Angus rib-eye with béarnaise sauce and Parmesan-dusted frites; a wood-roasted half chicken with fingerling potatoes; pan-seared Atlantic salmon with charred asparagus and tomato beurre monte; heavenly mac 'n' cheese with  silky white cheddar, smoked gouda and provolone sauce, garnished with a crisp-fried slice of coppa; and much more. It's the perfect place to enjoy al fresco dining while watching the spectacular sunsets.

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It's far easier to find exotic foods such as Vietnamese pho, Indian curries, African wot, and Thai gai pad krapow in Utah than it is to find German cooking. That's why whenever I'm in the vicinity of Spring City, Das Cafe (33 N. Main, Spring City, 435-462-7484) calls out to me. Along with what might just be the best potato salad on the planet, Das Cafe serves up Reuben sandwiches and brats bursting with flavor, not to mention specials such as rolladen, goulash and wiener schnitzel. Fair warning: If you skip the bread pudding, you lose.

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